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Working Paper No. 90

EU-NATO Cooperation and Strategic Autonomy - Logical Contradiction or Ariadne's Thread?

Jolyon Howorth - August 2018 Download


The EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP) was launched in the 1990s as a quest for “autonomy.” Fifteen years of efforts failed to deliver that objective. The coherence of the EU member states in their security dealings with the US was always vulnerable to the potentially incompatible objectives of the UK and France. But as EU leaders post-Brexit re-launch the CSDP, as the 2016 European Global Strategy rediscovers the virtues of “strategic autonomy,” and as the world juggles with a US president who appears to question the basis of the Atlantic Alliance, it is time to radically re-think the relations between the EU and NATO. This paper argues that, in the longer term, it is through the strengthening of the EU-NATO relationship that EU strategic autonomy will become possible, and that a consolidation of the transatlantic bond will emerge.